The U.S. Supreme Court had a chance to restore the Second Amendment rights of San Francisco residents this week, but it refused to do so by passing on a case that challenged the city’s mandate requiring one to store any handgun that is not being carried in a “locked container or disabled with a trigger lock.”
For unspecified reasons, SCOTUS did not want to hear the case of Jackson v. City of San Francisco, which was last reviewed by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in March. Like the district court who first ruled on the case, the 9th Circuit found that the mandatory gun lock was constitutional.
How those courts — the district court and the 9th Circuit — came to that conclusion is a vexing mystery to anyone who has read SCOTUS’s landmark ruling in the 2008 Heller case, which overturned D.C. ban on handguns and its requirement, similar to San Francisco’s, that firearms in the home must be “unloaded and dissembled or bound by a trigger lock or similar device.”
In the Heller decision, which was delivered by justice Anton Scalia, the high court correctly stated that the Second Amendment protects the right of the people to keep a “lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.”
Obviously, that raises the question of how can a firearm be immediately available if it is disabled with a trigger lock or stored in a container as the city of San Francisco requires?
To put it bluntly, the 9th Circuit and the district court got it wrong — way wrong. And it opened up the door for SCOTUS to right this wrong. Unfortunately, the majority of the justices did not want to do their job and protect the fundamental rights of the people, so SCOTUS passed up Jackson v. City of San Francisco.
Knowing that the high court was skirting its duty, two justices expressed outrage over the decision not to hear the case: Scalia and justice Clarence Thomas.
“San Francisco’s law allows residents to use their handguns for the purpose of self-defense, but it prohibits them from keeping those handguns operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense when not carried on the person,” justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a six page dissent, which was joined by Scalia.
“In an emergency situation, the delay imposed by this law could prevent San Francisco residents from using their handguns for the lawful purpose of self-defense,” Thomas stated. “And that delay could easily be the difference between life and death.”
Thomas continued, “The law thus burdens their right to self-defense at the times they are most vulnerable – when they are sleeping, bathing, changing clothes, or otherwise indisposed. There is consequently no question that San Francisco’s law burdens the core of the Second Amendment right.”
Read that last line again, “There is consequently no question that San Francisco’s law burdens the core of the Second Amendment right.”
Indeed. Yet, the mandatory gun lock requirement remains the law of the land in SanFran. Violators face a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
Since the 9th Circuit covers all of Hawaii, Alaska, California, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington state, cities and municipalities in those states seeking to pass storage requirements or those who already have them on the books are now protected and embolden to continue to undermine Heller.
We can only hope that the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s inaction don’t snowball.